Six sectional titles and two state semifinals isn't a bad legacy for most coaches who have been leading varsity football squads for a lot longer than Brennan Briggs coached in Batavia.
Briggs accomplished that feat -- along with a career record of 88-25 -- over 11 seasons.
In reality, Briggs won six sectional titles over nine seasons because the football program he inherited in 2012 was in shambles. After years of posting losing records, the Blue Devils needed a coach who could restore player development, discipline, vision, and a relentless drive to win. It took a couple of seasons for Briggs to fully instill a new system and new attitude in Batavia. Once he did, the Blue Devils were consistently formidable opponents year after year, game after game.
In 2014, the Blue Devils won the school's first football sectional title since 1991.
"As a fellow BHS grad like Brennan, I know the pride that existed in Blue Devil football when I was a BHS student, and over his successful coaching tenure, Brennan re-instilled that great pride and tradition for all of us Batavians," Superintendent Jason Smith said.
But the effort it takes to consistently win in varsity-level football takes its toll. The coaching doesn't just happen between the lines on Friday nights or during afternoon workouts. There are scouting trips, hours of film review, team meetings, meetings with coaches, meetings with players and parents, and nights just thinking about the next game. Planning and preparation are hard work. And it is year-round work.
"Brennan is the kind of coach who would never be out-coached," Athletic Director Mike Bromley said. "But that kind of work wears you down."
That's why Briggs is stepping down as head coach of the Batavia football team, and it's what Briggs said in his resignation letter:
It has been an unbelievable journey, but It's time for me to focus on the things I lost sight of over the years, and that's being a good husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend. I've been caught up in the ‘process’ for so long, and it is affecting the people who I love the most. In this position, if you’re doing it right, the hours are endless, late nights are a regular, and stress is the norm. Everyone talks about balance. Balance has never been a strength of mine. I’m all in or I’m out. Balance is great, but when you want to be on top, there’s no such thing as balance, and that’s part of why I need to step down. My family needs me to be all in with them, for the long haul. Unfortunately, with my family health history, I believe if I continue down this path, I won’t be around for the ones who need me the most when they need me the most.
It's that all-in character about Briggs that both Smith and Bromley mentioned in discussing the coach's decision to step away from football.
"I have known Brennan and his family over the course of my life through a family friendship, and actually taught Brennan swimming in the Red Cross backyard swimming program in the 80s and early 90s," Smith said. "He is a class act all around -- a humble and confident leader, and I congratulate him personally and professionally on his success. His wife Justine and children are certainly more than deserving of having their husband and father around more in their lives, and I wish them great happiness."
Bromley said he and Briggs have been discussing the coach's eventual resignation for a couple of years and what a hard decision it was to make, but, in the end, Briggs put his health and his family first.
"He is doing the right thing," Bromley said.
Briggs -- who had himself been a football and hockey star for Batavia -- joined Batavia's football program right out of college, first as a modified coach, then he spent two seasons as JV coach (going undefeated his second year). He will continue on as a hockey coach, Bromley said. He also remains in his teaching position at Batavia Middle School.
Briggs will continue to have a positive impact on academics and athletics in the Batavia City School District, Bromley said.
"Anything Brennan wants to do, he’s going to be successful at because of his high energy, his work ethic, his character, and people feed off of those things," Bromley said.
Because Briggs built such a robust program, Bromley isn't worried about maintaining the high standards Briggs set. All of the coaches at all levels of the program are invested in the system and understand it, so whoever steps into the head coach role next, while he might have his own ideas to impart, will find the scaffolding already in place that can build championship teams, he said.
In the near term, the JV team has had three consecutive undefeated seasons, and the modified team lost only one game this past season.
"Brennan has put a program in place that can be sustainable," Bromley said.
Van Detta has been regularly filled to capacity on Friday nights for the past couple of seasons. Bromley doesn't expect that community spirit to fade now that Batavia has a winning program in place.
Bromley hopes to have the new coach hired by the end of January.
Smith said Briggs represented Batavia well as head football coach, and he and the Board of Education are grateful for the positive impact he had on the community as head football coach.
"His program, coaching staff, and student-athletes under his leadership took great pride in representing all of us at BCSD," Smith said. "All the wins and titles weren't too bad either! On and off the field, Brennan demonstrated commitment, a second-to-none work ethic, and a passion for all that is Batavia."
Photo: Previously unpublished file photo of Brennan Briggs during football practice in 2013. Photo by Howard Owens.